Proper Regifting Etiquette

To regift or not to regift? Etiquette expert Lizzie Post answers this perennial post-holiday question.


It’s the moment many dread most: You’re sitting by the fire opening gifts at your extended family’s Christmas party. You’re handed a rather heavy gift from a family member, and wonder what it could be (clearly not a sweater, sigh of relief). As you open it up, you catch a glimpse of a blue color — can it really be the same baking pan or pot that you bought a month ago? Yes, indeed.

While most know to cordially accept whatever gifts you’re given during the holidays (they are gifts, after all), dealing with a gift that you don’t like, doesn't fit, or already have, is a different issue all together. Should we return it? Give it away? Or regift?

To help us handle with these situations, we asked Lizzie Post, an etiquette expert, how to deal those duplicate toasters, or those baking pans that just don’t fit in our kitchens.

 

When to Return

If you’re given a duplicate gift, or something that is the wrong size or an unsuitable color, and have the ability to return or exchange it for something that you need and want, by all means do so, says Lizzie. “Gift receipts are a wonderful thing” in cases like these. And don’t feel bad for the gift giver here; many know how challenging it can be to shop for others. How was your sister-in-law supposed to know that you, an amateur home cook, already had an immersion blender without raiding your kitchen?

 

Unwanted Gifts

If you’re given some pots and pans purchased from a discount store, on final sale, that you just don’t have room for in your tiny apartment kitchen, the situation changes. While some may be tempted to regift these, according to Lizzie, you should “take precaution first.”

 

Who Gave the Gift?

First, think about who the gift is coming from, and see if you can keep it around for a bit, in case you change your mind. If your future mother-in-law gives you crystal goblets that you just can’t stand, but are just her style, be warned: If she comes to your home a year later and asks why you aren't using the goblets, you have a sticky situation on your hand if you’ve regifted those goblets (less so if the goblets are still boxed, collecting dust, in your basement). Plus, you’ll never know when you’ll be hosting a medieval themed party and need some chunky glass goblets for raising glasses of “ale” when toasting.

 

Duplicate Gifts

If the gift is a duplicate of something you already have, like a cutting board that your dad gave you, keep the new gift for yourself. You’ll want dad to see how much you use the board when he comes for dinner. As for the old board, ask a dear friend who loves to cook if they would like your other board, explaining that you were given the same exact one from your father but don’t have room for two. In these situations, be open and honest with the person receiving the item that you are giving away.

 

Rules of Regifting

Now, if you really can’t stand the gift and don’t have room for it, regifting is an option — but not the only option. “When it comes to regifting” Lizzie explains, “there are four basic rules to follow:”

 

1. Make sure the gift is in its original packaging.

For pots and pans, this means the original box and all its wrappings. For kitchen utensils, if there is shrink-wrapping around the item, it absolutely must be intact. The gift should be in the same condition it was in at the store

 

2. No regifting original, unique, handmade or personalized gifts.

That means you can’t regift those personalized plastic glasses that your mother-in-law gave you that you just can’t stand, or that unique candelabra set your great uncle brought back from Asia. It would be a disaster if the candelabra showed up at someone else’s home where he was invited to dine.

 

3. You have to believe that the recipient would truly like the gift.

If you received a second stand mixer that you just don’t need, it is perfectly alright to regift it to your best friend who has always wanted one. We guarantee they will be thrilled.

 

4. Before you regift, be 99% sure that no one will find out or get hurt if they discover that the gift you’re giving is really regifted.

Need we explain why?

 

The Best Solution

In the end, it is best to “avoid regifting at all costs,” says Lizzie, unless the conditions are just right. The risk you run of hurting a family member and embarrassing yourself may be too great compared to offering gifts you don’t want to friends, trunk sale-style or at a white elephant party, or giving them away to organizations like The Salvation Army. There is most certainly someone out there who would love to have that Le Creuset Dutch oven that you have no room for.


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